South African schoolgirls offered scholarships if they remain virgins

'Being sexually active and seeking an education have nothing to do with each other,' campaigner says

A South African municipality has been criticised for reoprtedly offering scholarships to schoolgirls if they remain virgins.

Uthukela municipality in eastern Natal announced it would designate "Maiden Bursary Awards" to 16 sexually-inactive girls so they could pursue higher education.

Sisonke Msimang from the Sonke Gender Justice Project in Johannesburg told Al Jazeera it was "a terrible idea [that] had so many layers of ridiculousness".

"Being sexually active and seeking an education have nothing to do with each other," she said.

The girls are required to take two virginity tests before they can apply for the scholarship.

One bursary recipient told News 24: "They open the vagina and look, but they don't insert anything in it. I have never heard of them getting it wrong."

The spokesperson for the municipality, Jabulani Mkhonza, said the grants aimed to encourage "girls to keep themselves pure and inactive from sexual activity and focus on their studies".

"Those children who have been awarded bursaries will be checked whenever they come back for holidays," he said.

"The bursary will be taken away if they lose their virginity."

Reacting to the award, South Africa's Department of Women spokesperson, Charlotte Lobe said: "We don't support anything that undermines the rights of women.

"If these details are true, we would definitely find it objectionable, and engage with the municipality to resolve it."

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